“Most of all, if we fast-track this Bill, we lose the opportunity to react to last week as a mature democracy. We are in the midst of a constitutional conversation about the role of the intelligence services, about communications and privacy, and about whether, and the terms on which, we will barter our freedom and our security.
It is trite to point out that last week’s barbarism is a repudiation of the ideals that underpin our collective commitment to such conversations. In the face of such acts what we need from our political leaders is not reactionary legislation – it is resilience. The Investigatory Powers Bill requires scrutiny and then enactment. And this process must be driven by the cool logic of a careful legislature – not the fear we all feel today. Don’t fast-track the Bill.”
Lord Carlile QC, former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has said that in the aftermath of the Paris attacks last weekend, Parliament should fast-track the Investigatory Powers Bill into law. Given his extensive experience in the field, Lord Carlile’s views should not be taken lightly. But Lord Carlile is wrong. To fast-track the Investigatory Powers Bill is undesirable and unnecessary. It would also end a crucial public conversation in a wrong-headed paroxysm of governmental action.
An Undesirable Response
Fast-track national security law is undesirable for (at least) two reasons. First, legislatures tend not to function well in the aftermath of any emergency. If they legislate immediately, the result is often not just overreach, but legislation that is bad in technical terms. Second, these general concerns are of especial significance in this field of law, because existing flaws in our investigatory powers law are a result of failures of scrutiny in the past.
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